DAVID Cameron successfully seized the initiative after paving the way for a series of tax cuts to reward hardworking families and offer incentives to the low-waged. This was a welcome return to traditional Tory values following the age of austerity and showed how the sound management of the public finances does have the potential to benefit all.
The contrast between Mr Cameron’s aspirational agenda and the doom and gloom offered by Ed Miliband last week could not have been greater and only serves to intensify the pressure on the Labour leader – is he going to back Tory plans to abolish the scourge of youth unemployment or is he simply going to carp from the sidelines?
On every major issue, Mr Cameron is now setting the agenda.
First the economy. The Prime Minister showed that there is now hope on the horizon as he showed how responsible decision-making can, in time, lead to tax cuts for all and also more investment in the National Health Service as Britain enjoys the luxury of the fastest growing economy in Europe – one which is now supporting a record number of jobs.
Next the public services. Difficult decisions remain after the Tories acknowledge that another £25bn of savings need to be made, but at least the party recognises the need for the public sector to achieve more with less. Compare and contrast this with Labour which will inevitably oppose the reduction of the welfare cap – another aspirational policy intended to reward hard work.
Now the question of fairness. Mr Cameron’s clarity – “English votes for English laws” – was in marked difference to Mr Miliband’s obfuscation because of Labour’s electoral dependence on Scottish MPs to deliver its manifesto.
Finally Europe. Despite Ukip’s threat, the Tories are the only party committed to holding a referendum on Britain’s future membership of the EU. The dividing lines between the Conservatives and Labour have never been clearer – or greater.
How ironic, therefore, that the biggest threat to David Cameron winning the election comes from within his own party – and those so-called “splitters and quitters” flirting with Ukip.
Duke of Yorkshire
Andrew’s contribution to county
ON the day that David Cameron lauded William Hague as “the greatest living Yorkshireman” because of his contribution to foreign affairs and domestic politics, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the contribution that the Duke of York is making to this region’s prosperity.
Prince Andrew clearly derives great pride from his Royal title and has been using his status to help attract a new wave of investment. Significantly, he recognises the importance of the role being undertaken by Yorkshire’s universities – and how their academic expertise and cutting-edge research and development work is critical to inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs and wealth-creators.
The Duke’s insight and interest was self-evident yesterday when he visited the Centre for Digital Innovation in Hull to meet a group of young people whose start-up digital businesses are helping to revive the fortunes of a proud Yorkshire city that is now embracing economic change following the decline of traditional manufacturing industries.
Twelve years after visiting a nearby site to open The Deep, the Duke was clearly struck by the progress that has been made – and it bodes well for the future that this region now has such a high-profile business champion.
End funding farce
Extend fairness to rural areas
FAIR funding is not just pertinent to the public’s unease at the three major parties continuing to enforce the Barnett formula – the outdated mechanism that favours the Scots over the English when Whitehall allocates money.
The same applies to rural residents who continue to be shortchanged because of the failure of successive governments to recognise the simple fact that it costs more to provide key services in countryside communities.
As such, it is welcome that North Yorkshire County Council – Britain’s largest local authority in terms of geography – is to play a key role in a long-awaited Government review of rural funding. The greater challenge however will be persuading the next Government to implement the final recommendations, a task made all the harder by the tendency of legislators to favour urban areas. Yet, if Ministers are serious when talking about fairness, they will act. After all, rural householders pay taxes too.